Feb. 19, 2001
By Amy Forbes
College Lacrosse USA
Ninety coaches, primarily high school, leaned forward as Terrapin assistant coach and renowned lacrosse superstar Gary Gait drew a sketch on a piece of poster board with a magic marker. As he stepped back from the easel he told the room: "We score every game on this play."
Gait's play was more specifically referring to the six-time defending National Champions Maryland Terrapins, where he has successfully worked as an assistant coach, splitting time between his coaching duties and his professional league schedule for the past seven years.
On Saturday, Paul Caldwell, head women's lacrosse coach at Coffman High School, flew in from Columbus, Ohio, in order to attend the 2001 University of Maryland Coaching Clinic. He, like his colleagues, was there to learn and gain coaching techniques to utilize at his own program from Gait and the most successful coach in Division I women's lacrosse history - Cindy Timchal, the Lady Terrapins head coach.
"I think any coach would certainly want to come to this clinic and learn from the team who are the National Champs," Caldwell said. "We have practice on Tuesday and I already have half a dozen new drills to try."
Most of those gathered upstairs at the University's Inn and Conference Center were familiar with Gait's offensive prowess, he earned chuckles when he picked up one of the Terps new "Apax" stick and suggested that the pocket was like "a tennis racquet." Gait began the festivities by leading an innovative discussion that emphasized the basics of stick work and passing. All-Americans Jen Adams and Quinn Carney partnered up to help Gait demonstrate the primary dodging skills, necessary tools to winning one on one battles.
"One of our basic philosophies is we want the other team to cover everyone," Gait said. "We want our players to be a threat and be able to score one on one as well as off the ball."
Gait also shared his shooting expertise, explaining the fundamentals of stance and upper body position for power as well as deception. With 90 percent of all shots coming within four meters, Gait suggested shooting shuttles from all angles and shooting drills with a trailing defense in order to create game-like situations.
"Think of it along the lines of football," Gait said. "The whole point is to be deceptive. Take that same mentality when setting up your offense. Add cuts and trickery. It comes with practicing the basics."
"It made sense," said Laura Oliver, assistant coach at Leonardtown High School in Southern Maryland. "It validates everything if you have the top school stressing basics. You can go back and tell the kids, 'well Gary said.'"
Switching gears, Timchal followed Gait by detailing defensive concepts for coaches to instill in their younger players. She touched on the importance of communication and decision-making as well as proper positioning and stick checking. In the midst of her segment, she was besieged by questions concerning the exact ruling of an offensive charge, a call still seemingly marred by referee inconsistency.
"There's always going to be a question on who established themselves first," said Timchal, entering into her eleventh season as Terrapin head coach. "Once an attacker starts dipping her shoulders, it's an offensive charge. There's always going to be contact but we need to the teach basics on getting to the spot first."
Ultimately, Timchal defined defense with one word: the Ravens.
"Most players don't want to do the getting back and feeling the pain of defense," Timchal said. "Most want to let someone else do it. The better we play defense, the more we have the ball on offense. An individual must be responsible for not getting beat. Team defense, is then all about backing up. The fastest player in the country can't beat all 12."
After lunch, Timchal moved the lesson outside to the Terrapins practice facility, on the ICA Turf Field. Adams and Carney were joined by their teammates, dressed for the dipping temperatures, to demonstrate the techniques and drills Timchal and Gait had outlined inside.
"We practice everyday for two hours," Timchal said. "All athletes want to get better. But its important not over train your athletes."
Former Terrapin All-American goalie and graduate Alex Kahoe provided goalkeeping tips while Bargan Kagan discussed conditioning habits at the high school level. The team demonstrated set offensive pieces as well as "unsettled" situations, primarily opportunities in transition where the defense is down in numbers and appeared fit and ready to start the 2001 riding the nation's longest active title streak. Despite the bitter wind, coaches were seemingly impressed.
"These kids are exceptional," Caldwell said. "They make teaching techniques look good."